Narbonne: Espace de Liberté, a place that has become too small for the former “Cafet” that has become Grands Buffets

Created in 1989 under the status of “Cafeteria and Other Self-Services” and under the name Cafeteria Liberty, Grands Buffets, surfing the all-you-can-eat buffet fashion, has continued to grow, only to find itself cramped, in the aging equipment.

It was the era, long ago, of large leisure rooms, all-you-can-eat buffets, the cash years of Minitel, Burlington socks and the movie La Boum. Hubert Mouly, then mayor of the city, inaugurates the Espace de Liberté, the only leisure space of this type in Languedoc-Roussillon and is already thinking of a catering structure for both the general public and prestige, to stand out from the cafeteria hypermarket.

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Narbonne: Faced with a “lack of maintenance” of Espace de Liberté, Les Grands Buffets plans to leave town

The cafeteria already well located

The building was adopted by the municipal council at the end of 1987. A 25 m swimming pool with bleachers, a 50 m outdoor Olympic pool with bleachers for 1,000 to 3,000 seats, a paddling pool and games for children, a 6-lane bowling alley, a 40 m by 20 m, and a cafeteria. The modernity of the time wants a pyramid to be built at the entrance to access these facilities.

In 2021 before the reopening and after Louis Privat’s new investments
The Independent – Leblanc Philippe

François Mitterrand had just inaugurated the Louvre pyramid a few months earlier, giving access to the world’s largest museum. At the time, Narbonne was still hosting the Mediterranean Games. In 1992, the national swimming teams of the USA, Great Britain and Japan came here to prepare for the Olympic Games in Barcelona. The cafeteria was already well placed.

“363,000 customers per year”

For the 30th anniversary of Espace Liberté (in 2019), Louis Privat told the fashion for all-you-can-eat buffets, which “which people who went to Club Med remembered the most” but that no one had managed to fix permanently as an economic model. Narbonnais will address this by creating what will be Grands Buffets: the first all-you-can-eat buffet in France, affordable, with quality regional products and wines at bargain basement prices.

Thanks to national and international marketing campaigns (he entered the Guinness Book of Records with his 111 cheese references), the address is so well known, especially in Spain, that Louis Privat can afford to tickle the municipality by parodying an advertising campaign from the city. , daughter of Rome in the 2nd century with the title: “Narbonne, the city of Grands Buffets”.

Quality at a lower price and in quantity

According to the recording of elected officials in charge of tourism, the brand attracts an incalculable number of visitors, individuals or European tour operators. Rumor has it that regular Belgian customers fly to Carcassonne, hire a van and drive back to the restaurant in Narbonne. They would be “363,000 customers per year” according to Louis Privat, known in the French economic world for having found the economic formula that makes it possible to offer quality at a lower price and in quantity. Reverse low price (he has just increased his employees’ wages by 30%). 18th century chandeliers for an all-you-can-eat menu for €42.90.

From cafeteria to restaurant

From a cafeteria to an “accessible and prestigious” restaurant at the gateway to the center of Narbonne
The Independent – Leblanc Philippe

5 million euros in investments in 2020

In 2017, according to him, Grands Buffets was the French establishment with the highest turnover (outside Paris) in the sector, that is €12.5 million in 2017 and 325,000 covers served. The Covid crisis and the forced closure halved this number in 2020, but Louis Privat is taking advantage of this forced break to invest 5 million euros and expand. “The changes that have been made, especially on the outdoor terrace, make it possible to eat in a less stuffy atmosphere and sheltered from the wind, which for Narbonne is a real plus” comments a surfer on Tripadvisor the day after the reopening of the buffets on June 30, 2021.

Also read:
Possible departure for Grands Buffets from the city of Narbonne: towards an installation near Perpignan?

30 years after the inauguration of the cafeteria, with a new post-covid “8th room” in 2021, and expansion projects to increase the comfort of the more than 150 employees, the question of the space availability in the area of ​​freedom arises.

€12 million over 4 years to redo the roof and bring Espace Liberté up to standard

The urban community of Greater Narbonne has adopted an investment budget of 12 million euros spread over 4 years to redo the entire roof, tighten the glasses of the pyramid, insulate the ice rink from the outside, change the swimming pool pumps and carry out various works. The “totem”, showing the Grands Buffets in height, located on the property of the city of Narbonne, would not comply with the rules on outdoor advertising adopted in 2011 within the framework of the Grenelle de l’environnement, according to the mayor. Posters had until the end of July 2022 to comply. The new Climate and Resilience Act passed in 2021 devolves control to town halls on 1 January 2024.

Also read:
The Grands Buffets de Narbonne threatens to move: “Didier Mouly despises the 363,000 customers who come to the Grands Buffets” says Louis Privat

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